Saturday, 31 March 2012

First Swallow and Cetti's of the Year, Colne Valley Lakes (31st March 2011)

With very little changing at the reservoirs at Tring, I decided, instead to head for the Colne Valley Lakes, particularly Stockers Lake in hope of some early migrants and the Cetti's warbler.


I arrived at Batchworth first with the plan to walk west passing Batchworth, Bury, Stockers and Springfield Lake, before returning.  At Batchworth, I had my first COMMON TERN of the year, flying elegantly over the water doing the occasional characteristical stoop towards the water.  Other birds on the lake included 2 Great Crested Grebes, several Canada Geese and amongst them a single Canada x Greylag hybrid, see photo below, any opinions on what it might be a cross with?

hybrid Canada x Greylag

The sad sight of a dead Coot was also a reminder to their territorial disputes.  On a happier note, I saw my first BLACKCAP of the year in the surrounding willow woodland, whilst a Great Spotted Woodpecker was also heard calling.


Not very much about as there were a number of dog walkers and sailing boats on the lake.  However, 5+ Great Crested Grebes, 2 Chiffchaffs and 2 Grey Herons were of note.  On my return 2 Red Crested Pochard also turned up.

male Red-crested Pochard


I had the intention to stay at Stockers Lake the longest as most birds, as usual, tend to concentrate here.  In total 10+ Pochard, 8+ Grey Herons and 2 Red Crested Pochard were on the lake, whilst in the surrounding trees there were a pair of Nuthatches, 1 Blackcap and a pair of Lon-tailed Tits collecting nesting material (category D-probable breeding).  Also of note was 1 Stock Dove, 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker, 2 Treecreepers approaching very close to were I was stood and another pair of Blackcaps in the woodland bordering the canal.  Several birds also showed signs of breeding including both a single Stock Dove and a pair of Greenfinches, in a display flight/glide (both category D-probable breeding).  A nesting Canada Goose was also on the bank of the River Colne, were a Kingfisher also darted past.  I was also surprised to see a pair of Goldeneye still on the lake and 2-3 Egyptian Geese were also present.

Egyptian Goose

When I got to the meadow in the south west corner of Stockers Lake, bordering the canal I was very glad to see my first SWALLOW of the year, heading north low over my head.  Next, I decided to try my luck for the Cetti's along the causeway (thanks for directions Geoff Lapworth) and after a little patients, following the direction of its song , I obtained a short view of the CETTI'S WARBLER, finally bagged it for this year!  I was content with the day so far so sat down on the platform overlooking the eastern section of Stockers Lake, from were I saw a further 2 Common Terns perched on the posts in the centre of the lake and a pair of Reed Buntings collecting nest material (category B-probable breeding).  A Shoveler also swam past followed by a Kingfisher.  I was also approached by 3 Mute Swans, all bearing rings (not a big surprise since most of the Mute Swans on the Lake have orange colour rings), theirs were numbered 806, 842 and 904 (infact the ring number of the first bird could be persieved as 806 or 908 depending on the angle of the leg!).  A total of 15+ Swallows also flew over the lake followed by 2 Ring-necked Parakeets and intermittent song from the Cetti's.  Later I met up briefly with Geoff Lapworth again and together we tried to relocate the Cetti's in hope of some better view, we were not disappointed when it soon came out into the open and showed amazingly well hopping up on a fallen log and clambering over a bramble thicket.


I decided to visit Stockers Farm in hope of Wheatear, but unsurprisingly none were about due to the northerly wind direction.  However, 5+ Swallows were all chasing about the horse fields catching insects making it seem as if summer had already arrived.


Another short walk past Stockers Lake to Springwell Lake produced a further 5 Grey Herons, including a mating pair and 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker.


Not a lot about except 6 Gadwall, 3 Ring-necked Parakeets, 1 Grey Heron, 1 Stock Dove, 1 Reed Bunting, 1 Green Woodpecker and 1 Kestrel (my first and only raptor of the day).  The west and south bank seem particularly good for Lesser Spotted Woodpecker as the poplars grow close to the waters edge, there is plenty of dead wood and definitely no lack of nesting sites so I must check the site in future.

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